2 years, 2 months, and 22 days ago my life changed forever when I discovered that I was pregnant for the very first time.
As I squinted at that faint line on that first pregnancy test, my life was dramatically transformed. I realize that this may not be true for every woman. However, for me, in that life-altering moment with that positive pregnancy test in hand – that moment when I first realized that my body was no longer my own, when I first fell in love with this new life that I was creating, when I first tangibly envisioned a future that was bigger and beyond myself – I felt my spirit transform from a woman into a mother.
I have been a mother for 2 years, 2 months, and 22 days.
Yet, from the outside, no matter how much I feel changed and transformed, my life looks little different than it did 2 years, 2 months, and 22 days ago. Ostensibly, in that time, Patrick and I have moved and have started new careers. However, we still spend our evenings binging episodes of “House Hunters” and our weekends hiking, just as we did when we were newlyweds. And when we sometimes affectionately call each other “Mommy” or “Daddy,” we know that we are still only saying it for the sake of our dogs.
“Mommy will feed you,” Patrick promises Charlie, our terrier.
“Wait until Daddy gets home,” I threaten Darby, our beagle.
2 years, 2 months, and 22 days later, the room that would have been our nursery is now forbidden and still mostly bare. Every remnant of my motherhood is hidden away. Every memento is still a painful reminder, rather than a happy memory.
2 years, 2 months, and 22 days later, my arms are still empty, and my life, at times, feels emptier. Surely, I have found new purpose – for instance, I have fallen in love with my career, where I save lives and minister to pain. This future is so different than the future I had envisioned and dreamed so many days ago, and yet, it is also so painfully the same.
After we lost that first pregnancy, when my dreams were first so violently shattered in the blood and the pain of that first miscarriage, what once had been a beautiful vision of the future broke into pieces, leaving nothing but a vast and dark void in its place.
With each pregnancy afterwards, the beauty of that dream returned. It became most vivid and clear with our excited expectation of Ezra and Leo. After such disappointment, I had been so afraid to hope again, to dream again. It was not until we had safely entered into the second trimester and the doctor had reassured us that the chances of losing our boys was now less than 5%, that I finally turned to Patrick and said, “We should probably start planning for babies!”
Yet, if my dreams were first shattered with that first miscarriage, I do not know how to explain the vastness and the impenetrable darkness of the void that expands before me now as I try to look out into the future after losing Ezra and Leo.
Our due date was August 21, 2017. It was like a deadline flashing over us, filled simultaneously with endless fears of the responsibility that now lay ahead and endless hopes for the dreams that day contained. The plans were daunting and impending. The to-do lists were long and growing ever longer. It was a future and a dream so tangible and so real that this time I could feel it, quite literally, with every little kick and every angry jab.
And now there is just…
All of those plans seem so pointless now. Our due date in August is merely sentimental, a relic of a dream now dashed, since now it will never be our babies’ birthday.
I am still getting advertisements in the mail, though, thanks to the creepy memory of the Internet and thanks to the baby registries that now will not be filled. And I know that I will always live with reminders of how old Ezra and Leo should have been, if my dreams had gone as we had hoped and planned. Beyonce and George Clooney each announced their twins in the week before we shared our pregnancy with the world, and now their babies have all been born. Two of my very best friends were also pregnant at the same time – one has had her baby and one is about to pop any minute. Permanent reminders of a dream that I once had.
For 2 years, 2 months, and 22 days, my life has been on hold. Stuck – unable to plan for the future, too pained to reminisce about the past.
Ever since I was in the hospital, I have battled a stiffness in my neck unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. I discovered the cause when I woke up suddenly one night. Apparently, I spend much of the night clenching my arms so tightly around me, hugging myself so closely, that my muscles cramp and remain stuck in that strained position throughout the day. My therapist asked me one day what the tightness in my neck felt like, and I answered without hesitation, “It feels like an anchor.” After digging deeper with her into my psyche, an image of an anchor tied to a chain around my neck emerged, and I envisioned myself running and running, flailing my limbs in desperation to move forward, yet forever stuck in place with that anchor holding me back.
It is an apt image. As Patrick and I look forward toward the future, we do not yet know what it will hold – Trying again, and possibly risking my life in the process? Starting the adoption process, which may tack an unknown number of years of waiting onto the 2 years, 2 months, and 22 days we have already endured in this seemingly endless limbo? Attempting to adopt through foster care, with all of its risk of losing the children that we will inevitably come to love after days, or months, or years of caring for them? The future feels impossible to foresee, and through our grief, we just are not ready to dream any new dream. It is just too painful, too scary, and too hard.
This stagnation can be just as hard, however. For example, when we try to plan something relatively simple, like a family trip with Patrick’s parents, it becomes an almost impossible task. Will that date for the trip really work – what if we are trying again, or pregnant, or starting the adoption process at that point? Should we really go to his parents’ timeshare in Cancun, as we had hoped – what about the threat of Zika? The doctors confirmed that a trip there would postpone our future family planning by yet another six months. Should we wait even longer so that we can go? So confused by these endless possibilities and potential problems, we cancel and we stall. Sadly, it has been this way for 2 years, 2 months, and 22 days – we have been trying to plan this trip for nearly that length of time, and yet, we still have never gone.
So, 2 years, 2 months, and 22 days later, our lives are stuck on hold, for the possibility of a future that may never come. And yet, we dream, and we wait, and we pray that one day the anchor will give way and life will be all that we had hoped it would be.